Moscow via Mexico City
US Soccer heads south of the border with hopes of qualifying for 2018 World Cup
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will kick off in less than 12 months, and the United States Men’s National Soccer team is hoping Sunday’s match against archrival Mexico will put them one step closer to their goal of qualifying for the biggest sporting tournament on earth.
After starting with 41 teams in January 2015, the U.S. team is one of six in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) competing for three guaranteed spots in next summer’s tournament in Russia. This round of qualifying, known as the “Hexagonal,” involves six nations playing each other at home and on the road over 10 games. A win counts for three points, a tie one, and a loss none. The three with the highest point total qualify automatically, while the fourth place team must compete in a playoff against Asia’s fifth-place finisher in order to make the tournament. The two remaining teams will not qualify.
The beginning of the Hex was disaster for the United States. Winless after two games, the U.S. Soccer Federation fired head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and replaced him with former USMNT head coach Bruce Arena. The change sparked an immediate change in the team. They scored a 6-0 victory over Honduras, a 1-1 tie against Panama and a 2-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago last night. Halfway through this round, the team sits in third place with seven points, behind Mexico (13) and Costa Rica (8).
Eighteen-year-old Christian Pulisic, who had both goals in the win over Trinidad and Tobago, has sparked the Yanks. The youngster, who plays professionally for Borussia Dortmund in Germany’s top soccer league, has scored seven goals in 15 appearances with the U.S. National Team. In a word, he’s a phenomenon. Put simply, Pulisic may be the best soccer player the United States has ever produced. His spark has been a blessing for a team whose stars are well north of 30 years old, a perceived dividing line in professional soccer player’s ability to compete at the highest levels.
Mexico has a very strong team and is expected to be a major player next summer. Sunday’s match will provide a glimpse into the progress the United States has made since the stunning losses at the beginning of the Hex. The Americans have only won once when playing at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Playing at altitude is a major advantage for the Mexicans. If the Americans can steal a win on the road, it would go a long way toward earning a place at the World Cup. A tie would be considered a win, as it would prevent Mexico from running away with the group. A loss wouldn’t be too damaging, but it would add a lot of stress on the team for its remaining four games.
The Yanks have a penchant for beating Mexico 2-0. While that score line usually happens when the games are played north of the border, expect to hear and see red, white, and blue adorned fans chanting “Dos a Cero,” two to zero in Spanish, as they motivate their team and talk trash to their biggest rivals.
CONCACAF 2018 World Cup Qualifiers Standings
The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team is one of six in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) competing for three guaranteed spots in next summer’s World Cup tournament in Russia. This round of qualifying, known as the “Hexagonal,” involves six nations playing each other at home and on the road over 10 games. A win counts for three points, a tie one, and a loss none. The three with the highest point total qualify automatically, while the fourth place team must compete in a playoff against Asia’s fifth-place finisher in order to make the tournament.
Team PTS W L D GF GA GD
Mexico 13 4 0 1 8 1 +7
Costa Rica 8 2 1 2 7 3 +4
United States 7 2 2 1 10 7 +3
Panama 6 1 1 3 2 2 0
Honduras 4 1 3 1 4 1 -5
Trinidad & Tobago 3 1 3 0 2 6 -4
U.S. Soccer’s CONCACAF 2018 World Cup Qualifiers Hexagonal Schedule
Halfway through the “Hex,” the United States has five games left to book their passage to the 2018 World Cup.
DATE TEAMS Location
Nov. 11, 2016 Mexico 2, USA 1 Columbus, Ohio
Nov. 15, 2016 Costa Rica 4, USA 0 San Jose, Costa Rica
Mar 24, 2017 USA 6, Honduras 0 San Jose, Calif.
Mar 28, 2017 USA 1, Panama 1 Panama City, Panama
Jun. 8, 2017 USA 2, Trinidad & Tobago 0 Dick's Sporting Goods Park
Jun. 11, 2017 USA at Mexico Mexico City, Mexico
Sep 1, 2017 USA vs. Costa Rica TBD
Sep 5, 2017 USA at Honduras San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Oct. 6, 2017 USA vs. Panama Orlando, Fla.
Oct. 10, 2017 USA at Trinidad & Tobago Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago